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OS move a 'nightmare', says steward

Filed: Tuesday, 6th September 2016
By: Staff Writer

A former Boleyn Ground steward who now works at the Olympic Stadium has told of their "nightmare" experience following West Ham United's move.

The match day official contacted KUMB.com in order to express their concerns about the safety of supporters as the result of poor organisation at the OS, following the decision by Newham Council's Safety Advisory Group to cap the stadium capacity at 57,000.

And the source also revealed that many of their fellow employees, who similarly followed the club from E13 to E20, were equally disenchanted - with many ready to resign just a matter of weeks after taking up their new posts.

"The stadium operators are not listening and have no understanding of fans' frustrations," our source, who asked us to preserve their anonymity, told KUMB. "And if things are not addressed, the problem is only going to get worse.

"When we arrived at the new venue, many stewards were given positions that had no bearing on their previous experience.

"Some of those who had worked directly with fans for 20 years were told to guard lifts, whilst new stewards working their first event were asked to deal with the public. This was enough for some to give up on the Olympic Stadium before we'd even started!"

Our source revealed that Boleyn Ground stewards had been consulted over the move as early as last year - although promises made during those early meetings were soon forgotten.

"Stadium Manager Steve Riley, who used to work for Fulham, visited West Ham in November 2015 and promised that all stewards would have the same roles in the new stadium," he revealed. "We had 330 match day staff at this point.

"Unfortunately the application process was a nightmare and some gave up at that stage. Of those 330 match day staff, only 140 have signed on to work for OCS at the Olympic Stadium - largely because of the low pay."

The steward - who has previously worked football grounds both domestically and abroad - firmly believes that many of the problems witnessed in the stands already this season could have been avoided if the Boleyn Ground team had been persuaded to move to the OS.

"I was one of 40 staff in my section at the Boleyn Ground and of those, 35 were West Ham fans," our source said. "I feel this is a point that is lost, as the stewards that have an emotional investment in the club tend to work much better.

"That's because they share and understand the frustration of fans, can judge the prevailing mood and react before it happens.

"Furthermore, they are not there for the money. In many cases, they lost money just to work for West Ham. For example, I would want five times the amount I am paid to do my job at any other club!"

As a result, inexperienced stewards have been introduced to deal with crowd control by the stadium's operators, London Stadium 185 - a situation that our source firmly believes has exacerbated the issues being experienced by fans.

"For some there is a complete lack of understanding of what they are dealing with," said our source. "I have offered my thoughts but they don't seem to understand what they are dealing with.

"Some of the new stewards said they felt unsafe. I spoke to four or five people from the club during the game and they are frustrated too.

"Against Astra Giurgiu there were less than 70 former Boleyn Ground stewards working. If it continues, I would expect no more than 40 to be left by the end of the year - out of around 700 Olympic Stadium staff."

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